Friday, June 24, 2011

Crazy Brides and Summer Changes

I flew across the country, but the summer heat came with me. Part of summer's allure is its inescapability. It arrives without apology and colors every thought.

Summer also signals change. First come graduations, then the weddings.

Most summer promises are meant to expire, but wedding vows are the one exception. Wedding vows aren't bound to the season. Most of summer does not demand endurance, so weddings provide a necessary contrast. They anchor the fleeting friendships, the unplanned parties, and the whispered dreams.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Surviving the Day After (Chop off my thumbs, tear out my buttons)

This is not a post about hangovers, even though yesterday's post did touch on celebrations (and I'm still looking for wedding stories and tips -- so go back and comment if you have the inclination!) It's also not a post on surviving zombie apocalypses. I already shared my plan for that in the comments to this post.

This is a post about reading, writing, blogging, viewing and remembering. A post about art and ideas, sharing and filtering. A (metaphorically) sober post.

Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation

The Spark

So you have a great idea. You write some great pages. You devour a book in one sitting. You watch a stunning film, entranced throughout. Your mind's been captured. It's a form of love at first sight. These are moments we all seek.

But does that initial excitement survive? 

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Marriage of Heaven and Hell

When most people are headed to weddings, they probably don't think of William Blake and The Marriage of Heaven and Hell. (Their loss? No? Just me being weird? Alas! Plus ca change...)

At least I have the sense to know that this connection is better brought up among my blogging friends than those attending the wedding. Which is just as well, since Blake's poetic creations shed more light on writing and reading than they do on modern day marriages (though if someone wants to write a post on marriage tips via William Blake, I'd love to read it. I'll even retweet!). Blake provides an unconventional literary guide, but one filled with riches.

A simple claim: What is good fiction? A Marriage of Heaven and Hell.

Both aspects need to be present. "All heaven" is wish-fulfillment. "All hell" is even more limited. Even Dante's Inferno is not all hell, nor is his Paradiso all heaven. In bleak works like Blood Meridian the heaven may lie in the poetry of the prose and its images. No wasteland is barren. The light need not come in the container of a likeable character, but it must come in some form.

Further pointers from a poem that often verges on insanity:

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Long Haired Freaky People Need Not Apply

(The title line comes from the song "Signs" and is not a policy endorsed by this blog. I love both long-haired and freaky people, and all are welcome here.)

Long hair in history

Samson, an unbeatable warrior, lost his strength when his hair was cut. The Philistines then seized him, chained him and gouged his eyes out. All because a razor touched his head.

Joan of Arc, in contrast, gained strength by cutting her hair and donning men's clothing. She then led an underdog army and defeated the British. Victorious for a moment, she still ended up burning at the stake (and the short hair was partly to blame for this).

Samurai traditionally cut their hair when defeated, symbolizing lost honor.

Why talk about hair?

Hair is on my mind because I recently chopped off about half a foot of mine. (My hair looked a bit like Samson's in the painting above, if only his were made twice as chaotic by 90% humidity.)

So surely transformation awaits; but for better or for worse?

Monday, June 20, 2011

You're still young, that's your fault. (On Fathers)

(The title line comes from Cat Stevens's Father and Son.)

In my Pain as Illumination post, I highlighted one of the most touching father scenes in literature -- the encounter of Priam and Achilles. In general, though, I've tended to side with youth. (For example: Here. Here. Here.) Now I also honor the old(er).

12 Things I Learned from My Father:

1. Age touches even the mighty: My father went from running a 10k race to walking with a cane to having hip replacement surgery in mere months. All of this before graying. And the "good" hip will also need to be replaced soon.

2. Keep room on the shelf for Dostoevsky and Homer. I even later stole some of those shelves to furnish my apartment.

3. But it's also okay to stay up to finish the Sword of Shannara series. What now looks like insomnia was then impressive precocity.

4. How to lift weights. An essential skill for someone like me who moves often and has lots of books.

5. Treat animals kindly, even snakes. Or especially snakes. You don't want to know how many pet snakes I had growing up. As a kid, my dad had two pet garter snakes that he named Hektor and Achilles after one tried to swallow the other (in an argument over a worm).

6. Milk is for babies; wise men drink beer. Whoops. That lesson actually came from someone else. I drank milk by the gallon as a kid. Still haven't broken a bone that I know of.

7. Anger is often counterproductive and self-defeating. Calm is not easy, but it gets easier as you go.

8. Sometimes you need to turn it up to 11. The first guitar I played was a Gibson Hummingbird knock-off I borrowed from him. The neighbors, in the spirit of those at the Newport Folk Festival, probably wished I'd never plugged in.

9. Root against the Dallas Cowboys. Being a decent person, I probably would have arrived at this anyways. But it's nice to learn some things early.

10. Why Carl Jung is Still Worth Studying. If you're interested, I have a recent blog post on the subject.

11. Play the game the way the refs are calling it. No use in raging against structural factors you can't control. Push where they can't see. Adapt. Adjust. Be smart. I can't call him the best coach I ever encountered, since this guy was hanging around the Princeton travel soccer program when I was there, but he was pretty darn good and coaching is pretty dang hard.

12. Find your talent, find your bliss. Still working on this one, but I've got you readers to guide me as well. Now my sins are my own.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Windows are for Cheaters (Or: Stuff I've Been Reading)

A Sunday feature in which I mention some stuff I've been reading, and throw out a request for recommendations. I'll also recap some of my posts from the week. (I love for people to comment on old posts, so feel free to dive into the archives!)

The List

1. The Tiger's Wife - Tea Obreht. Mentioned in this post. Recently won the Orange Prize. Here's Larry at the OF Blog's positive review. Here's Laura Miller's mixed review.

2. Ulysses - James Joyce. I dipped back into this one for my post on Is Ulysses a Pretentious POS?. Read the comments for the full spectrum of opinions. (Project Gutenberg version.)

3. Invincible Summer - Hannah Moskowitz. Discussed in yesterday's post: The Backstreets of Invincible Summer.

4. The Filter Bubble: What the Internet Is Hiding from You - Eli Pariser. How technology is shaping what we see, often without our knowledge. We each have a different Google, tailored to our worldview. This book was brought to my attention by Erik Setterlind's post on it. I may say more on it later.

5. The Big Man - Joe Posnanski. This a blog post in remembrance of Clarence Clemons, who died yesterday, but it's also about rock, youth and aging. Well worth your time.
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